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After the Storms - Hurricane Season 2004

Wow, did we get hit hard this summer! We can go years and years without a major storm coming near Melbourne, but Hurricane season 2004 just kept hitting us with one enormous storm after another. On the charts below the line indicates where the eye of the storm went, but hurricane winds can extend for great distances around the eye.

hurricane charley
Charley 8/13/04

First came hurricane Charley - a category 4 hurricane that reached highest sustained winds of 145 mph (that means that there were some gusts that were even higher). Lucky for my area, Charley was a compact storm that moved quickly across Florida. Even though the storm passed only 50-60 miles to the northeast of us, we were hardly touched at all. I had a windy night with practically no rain - less than a typical afternoon thunderstorm.

It was a different story on the west coast - they were beat up pretty bad.

Charley was a wake up call for everyone when we saw the damage done to places like Punta Gorda. More people were willing to evacuate a few weeks later when Frances headed our way.

hurricane charley Frances 9/04/04
Hurricane Frances and FloridaHurricane Frances struck on September 4. After seeing what Charley did, people prepared more for Frances than they might have. It has been nearly 50 years since we had been hit by a really bad storm, and we have become pretty casual about it, but with Frances being another category 4 we were taking precautions.

The news media hypes every storm as though it were going to be catastrophic, but usually the storm diverts away from us. When huge numbers of people evacuate and then no storm hits, they start to feel like it isn't worth all the trouble and expense of loading up and leaving. Even though many of us still prefer to ride it out, a lot of people did evacuate for Frances, including my mother and my sister and her family. (My sister is living in a mobile home while her house is being built, so evacuation was just good sense for her.)

The beginning of the stormEarly in the storm large branches were breaking.

I prepared my house for the hurricane, but news reports of massive traffic jams and gas shortages made me feel good about my decision to ride it out at home. I waited too long to gas up my car and by the day before the storm there was no more gas available.

Twice the size of hurricane Charley, Frances was as large as the state of Texas and moving very, very slowly. Usually a hurricane passes in just a few hours, but Frances started in the afternoon, then blew all night and most of the next day.

Cat in the closetMost of the night the dog, cat and I spent in the waterbed, napping and watching tv coverage of the progress of the storm. A couple of times the cat disappeared only to be found in the back of the closet. This is not a stupid cat!

We had power all night and nothing came crashing down on the roof, so we really did quite well.

The night of the stormAs night fell, the wind continued to beat the trees.

The next morning
By morning several trees were down in the yard.

I never lost power, but - as before - the rest of the neighborhood lost power in the early hours of the storm. There are just 4 or 5 houses in my development that are on a different power line than all the others. In every bad hurricane the others lose power for 3 or 4 weeks, and we don't lose it at all.

Neighbors were great about helping each other after the storms. Since I had electrcity I made ice to replenish my neighbors ice chests and shared my washer and dryer. Since the neighborhood was built with natural gas hookups, families were able to cook and take hot showers even with the power out.

<<<SideNote: I went to the local pub to see how everyone came through the storm. A man passing behind me took a deep breath and told me I smelled really, really good. When those around you haven't showered in a long time, soap and water smells wonderful!>>> .

I lost my TV cable and internet access for a week, and water went out for a day, but that was really the worst of it.

Most of my biggest shade trees went down, but they all missed the house. The shed was another matter, but at least with a tree leaning on it the shed didn't blow away like so many did. My garden, however, was completely demolished.

Click here for photos of garden damage.

The next few weeks were busy with clean up, and Judy and I made a trip to the river to see how the marsh made out.

Click here and for here for photos of our first rides on the river. With the water up we were able to run on airboat trails and get out to the cypress swamp.

A friend came out with his chainsaw and cut up my fallen trees and I hauled all the wood to the curb and cleaned the garden up as best I could, but all too soon we had another hurricane breathing down our necks.

hurricane charley
Jeanne 9/27/04
Jeanne blew through on September 27. I didn't evacuate for this one either. It's not as though I had any trees left to fall on the house. This hurricane was only a category 3, but being in the northeast quadrant of the storm we took a hard hit from it. Again, I never lost power, phone or cable, but this storm was stronger than Frances had been and I got concerned enough to sleep in the hallway rather than in my bedroom.

We were worried that piles of debris would fly around in this storm, but it wasn't a problem in our area. Since my trees had all come down in the first storm, I didn't have too much more yard or roof damage, but my boat sank!

With my Gheenoe beating up against other boats and the dock, the engine had jumped off the transom then dragged the back of the boat underwater by the safety cable. A friend got the engine running again and patched up the damage to the fiberglass, so we were able to make another trip to the Jane Green Swamp. The cypress were so beautiful that day! See those photos here and here.

beach erosion
Beach Erosion in Indialantic, Florida

metal detectingThe beach was badly eroded, and beachfront homes took a hard blow. With the beach washed out so deeply many people were taking the opportunity to scan the sands with metal detectors. I heard of several finds of old coins and jewelry from ancient shipwrecks.

Sections of US-1 were washed into the Intercoastal Waterway, traffic lights were out and hanging, road signs were down, and some areas were without power or phones for 6-8 weeks. We were still in better shape than those just to the south of us.

Huge mountains of hurricane debris still lined US-1 months after the storms passed. Mobile homes in the Barefoot Bay area were devastated. Docks and boats on the waterfront were demolished.

People have had to learn how to get the Army Corps of Civil Engineers to put a blue tarp on their leaky roofs, how to get disaster relief food stamps and how to fill out a FEMA application. We've all had to file our insurance claims and search for roofers, electricians and tree removal service that can possibly get to us before next April.

hurricane charley

By the time hurricane Ivan threatened to hit, we were so done! Lucky for us Ivan - an impressive category 5 - decided to go far to the west of us, and all we got was some windy rainy weather out of it. Of course, when your roof is leaking you don't really want more wind and rain, but it was still better than another hurricane.

By this time, families that had evacuated for three storms already just couldn't afford the travel expenses any more. Gasoline delivery was still unreliable, and hotels were full with people who had lost their homes in the earlier hurricanes. A few people who had left for Frances decided that evacuation was not something they wanted to do again, and opted to ride out any more storms in their own homes.

Not that we wished hurricane Ivan on anyone else, but we all just felt like we had enough! It was a huge relief to see it go away from us. We are still putting things back together (the roofer is stomping around over my head as I write this) and thanking our lucky stars that we came through it as well as we did. As you can see from the maps, my town wasn't in the crosshairs of the storms, so as bad as our damage was, others had it much, much worse.

People up north may think that it would be horrible to live where these storms can hit, but most of us feel like a bad storm every 50 years is much better than snow and ice and cold EVERY year!

Related stories:
  Garden Damage
  The Marsh After Hurricane Frances - Trip 1
The Marsh After Hurricane Frances - Trip 2
  My Gheenoe
  The Marsh After Hurricane Jeanne - Trip 1
The Marsh After Hurricane Frances - Trip 2

I survived hurricane season 2004
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